Sunday, November 15, 2015

Happy This Christmas

I really enjoyed recording with these great musicians this past summer. In the video, you'll see a photo of me playing contrabassoon, even though this particular recording only includes my bassoon playing. That photo snuck in there because we were also recording for another full album that will be coming out the summer of 2016. I love love love the song I play contrabassoon on, and I look forward to sharing it with you next year!  Until then, I hope that you are Happy This Christmas.

"Happy This Christmas": Tommy McClymont and The Panacea Jamband. Written by Tommy McClymont & Don Jacobs. Produced by Don Jacobs and Tommy McClymont. Recorded at Purple Creek Studios in Jackson, Mississippi.  Ol’ Yellow Bus Music, Published on Nov 15, 2015.
o Tommy McClymont: vocals, tenor ukulele, handclaps
o Don Jacobs: vocals, bells, handclaps
o Elaine Maisel, bassoon
o Ty Maisel: violin
o Raphael Zweifel: cello

Monday, October 12, 2015

In C by Terry Riley for Link Up: Grades 3-5

Carnegie Hall's Link Up program "The Orchestra Rocks" includes Terry Riley's "In C."
For Grades 3-5.

Download the pdf of the original one-page score along with the two pages of instructions.

Performance/Rehearsal Directions
  • "In C" consists of 53 short, numbered musical phrases, though for Link Up, you will only focus on the first seven. Students can sing or play the phrases. 
  •  Each phrase may be repeated as many times as each performer chooses. Each musician has control over which phrase he or she plays: players are encouraged to play the phrases starting at different times, even if they are playing the same phrase. In this way, although the melodic content of each part is predetermined, In C has elements of aleatoric music to it.  
  • The performance directions state that the musical ensemble should try to stay within two to three phrases of each other. The phrases must be played in order, although some may be skipped. 
  • One performer (or group of performers) keeps the pulse for the group by playing repeated eighth-note C's on piano, tone-bar or marimba during the entire performance. 
  • Grace notes can be omitted for recorders if necessary. 
  • You may want to also add non-pitched percussion instruments, clapping, or snapping as part of your performance exploration. 
  • Work to play/sing at the correct pitch with good tone and good rhythm. 
  • Incorporate over-all ensemble changes in dynamics from louder to softer into the class performances of the piece. 
  • Once students are comfortable performing "In C" have them compose their own "In G" (page 20 of the student guide). 
  • Listen to different types of performances of "In C" by professional ensembles (at the bottom of this post) for ideas about new ways to perform it, and to discuss the ideas of tempo and tone color.

Terms and concepts associated with Terry Riley's "In C"
  • Minimalism: Style of music that started in New York City in the 1960s. Prominent features of the technique include consonant harmony, steady pulse (if not immobile drones), stasis or gradual transformation, and often reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units such as figures, motifs, and cells. 
  • Metronome: Any device that produces a regular, metrical pulse. Here, the person performing the repeated eighth-note Cs is being the metronome. The rhythms of the other performers should fit within the beat created by the person acting as the metronome. 
  • Aleatoric music: Music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed work's realization is left to the determination of its performer(s). In this piece, each person chooses how many times to repeat each phrase before moving on to the next once, thus each performance is different and not completely controlled. 
  • Pattern: Something that repeats. Look for different types of patterns in this piece. 
  • Sequence: In music, a sequence is the restatement of a motif or longer melodic (or harmonic) passage at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice.
  • Key: The key of a piece is the tonic note and chord/scale which gives a sense of arrival and resolution. "In C" is in the key of C. Notice how all the phrases relate to the tonic of C as it is performed. 

Some Interesting Performances of "In C" on YouTube

Shows video closeups of the instruments and performers clearly. Uses African instruments, and has nice low tone colors and added percussion elements that are interesting and appealing: 

Also uses African Instruments, but in a very different way:

The original recording from 1968:

Bang On a Can performance. Nice tone colors and use of dynamics in the ensemble:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Orchestral Etiquette by The Entire DSO Flute Section

At this link is a great article on orchestral etiquette that applies to all sections of a professional orchestra.

When you're still in school and in a student orchestra, you are more likely to be in a situation where asking questions as a non-principal is OK and even encouraged. In a professional setting, it is indeed the case that speaking out is not appropriate. All of the suggestions in the article are the normal expectation for orchestra rehearsals and concerts.

These are a great reminders to me even though I've played professionally for years. It's easy to develop funny little habits that may be annoying or inappropriate, and it's a good to re-examine the rules before this season starts again.

Link: Orchestral Etiquette by The Entire DSO Flute Section (Flute Specialists July 2015 Newsletter)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

12 Reasons Why You Should Use a Metronome Every Time you Practice

12 Reasons Why You Should Use a Metronome Every Time you Practice.

1. No excuses. You can download the app for free if you have a smart phone. Even though I have a drawer full of stand-alone metronomes, I almost always use Pro Metronome on my iPhone. It's convenient, simple, and offers everything I need, including the ability to listen though headphones if I want.

2. It trains you to listen outside of yourself while playing, thus making you a better ensemble player

3. It keeps you honest about your rhythm and tempo, and helps you find errors in your playing. We all have a tendency to rush or drag with certain types of playing. We all have the potential to be lazy about correct subdivision of beats. You can improve and overcome these tendencies. 

4. It helps you know what you can and cannot do at certain speeds. We all need work on both faster and slower playing. Keep track of progress as you set goals and work to push your playing ability on both ends of the spectrum. Work to make your scales faster. Work to make your long tones slower.

5. It is a necessary tool when learning challenging syncopated rhythms. Slow it down and really listen. Don't stop listening when you speed it up.

6. Being prepared for performance is all about consistency. Practicing with a metronome reinforces consistent rhythm, tempo, and the ability to play through the piece or excerpt to completion with no mistakes.

7. It makes practice more efficient. Set goals. Play things at both slower and faster tempi than your final goal. Keep track of your progress and write down the speeds at which you have played the excerpt/piece and check them off as you accomplish them.

8. It prepares you to play with backing tracks/click tracks. Playing with that external click takes some getting used to. 

9. For rhythms that you're having a hard time figuring out,  put down your instrument and clap/sing the rhythms along with the metronome before you add in the extra challenge of playing them.

10. It builds in a sense of tempo markings, so that if you are away from the metronome and see a marking of quarter=140 vs. quarter=132, for example, you understand what speed that is.

11. You can fool most of the people most of the time if you have rock solid rhythm even though you've wigged out about playing the all the correct pitches. Good rhythm comes before correct pitches when it comes to a solid, convincing performance.

12. Techniques such as trills can mess with your sense of time. Always always practice with a metronome when you've got trills....especially long ones. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Double Reed Resources for Composers

Below is a short bibliography, a list of links, and a list of standard repertoire to familiarize yourself with as you begin to write for the double reed family. Many extended techniques are possible. Be aware of the clef preferences for bassoonists who play at different levels (i.e. college students and professionals prefer to read the upper range in tenor clef).


New Sounds for Woodwind (2nd Ed.) by Bruno Bartolozzi
Library call #: MT339B29 1982, Published by Oxford University Press
Contains descriptions of how to produce tones with monophonic possibilities, multiphonic possibilities, combinations of the above, and fingering diagrams. It is a general guide, with fingerings for all the woodwind instruments.

Oboe, by Goosens
Library call#: MT360G66, Published by MacMillen Publishing
Contains history of the oboe up to 1800, including bass oboe and Heckelphone. Also discusses technique, including contemporary music technique.

Index of Oboe Music, by Wayne Wilkins
Published by Music Register (1976)
Contains a bibliography of oboe music arranged alphabetically within genre and includes methods, solo and chamber music and books of interest.

Contemporary Solo Literature for the Bassoon: An Analysis of Representative Compositions and a Survey of Compositions Suitable for the College Student, by Richard Dean Scott. Library call#: ML128.B26 S360 1971b, Published by University of Illinois
Contains an annotated repertoire list of contemporary solo music of published works from 1945 to 1971.

Double Reed and Composition Websites:

This is a small list to get you started. My apologies to composer friends and colleagues who have not yet been added to the list. Please let me know if you'd like me to add you.

International Double Reed Society
Must be an IDRS member to have full access to the site (the journal is available on-line to members), but a great deal of the site is available to non-members.

Trevco Music
My favorite purveyor of sheet music for double reeds. They offer a vast catalogue of the music that is in print for bassoon, oboe, English horn, double reed ensemble and small ensembles that include double reed instruments.

Ken Watson
Composer and arranger for double reed instruments. Member of the Washington Double Reed Quartet.

Mike Curtis
Composer who writes wonderful arrangements of klezmer, jazz and tango music for double reeds and chamber ensembles.

Thomas Dempster
Composer and bassoonist who has written several great pieces for bassoon and bassoon in chamber ensemble.

When you write for double reeds, you should find a professional player to ask questions of and to review your manuscript. Clef choices, technique demands (even simple things like slurring from particular notes), extended techniques (such as the use of just the keys for percussive effect), and tendencies of the instruments are not always obvious. To get in touch with a local bassoonist or oboist, seek out regional double reed societies, professional double reed players in your area (through local symphonies, woodwind quintets, and wind ensembles) and area universities that have music departments or schools of music. The double-reed world is small. If you connect with one person, they can likely get you in touch with many more.

Standard Bassoon Repertoire in Chronological Order:

1.     Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto in e RV484
2.     Georg Philipp Telemann Sonata in f minor  (1728)
3.     W.A. Mozart Concerto K191 for bassoon and orchestra (1774)
4.     François Devienne Quartet Op. 73 (1798)
5.     Carl Maria von Weber Concerto in F  (1811)
6.     Johann Nepomuk Hummel Grand Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra (1816)
7.     Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata Op. 168 for bassoon and piano (1921)
8.     Heitor Villa-Lobos Ciranda das sete notas for bassoon and string orchestra (1933)
9.     Paul Hindemith Sonata for bassoon and piano (1939)
10.  Jean Francaix Divertissement for bassoon and string orchestra (1942)
11.  Alvin Etler Sonata for bassoon and piano (1952)
12.  Wilson Osborne Rhapsody for Bassoon (1952)
13.  Alexandre Tansman Sonatine for bassoon and piano (1952)
14.  André Jolivet Concerto for bassoon, harp, piano and string orchestra (1954)
15.  John Williams The Five Sacred Trees , a concerto for bassoon and orchestra (1995)

Standard Oboe Repertoire in No Particular Order:

1.     Schumann: Three Romances
2.     Handel: Sonata No. 1
3.     Labate: Pastorale
4.     Corelli-Barbirolli: Concerto
5.     Barlow: Winters Passed
6.     Clerisse: Fantasie
7.     Handel: Concerto in Bb
8.     Loeillet: Sonata in G
9.     Nielson:Romance and Humoreske
10.  Handel:Sonata No. II
11.  Guihaud:First Concerto
12.  Valentine:Sonata No. 8
13.  Godard:Legende Pastorale
14.  Donizetti:Sonata in F
15. Albinoni:Sonata in a
16.  Telemann:Concerto in f
17. Berio Sequenza